John’s Note: Okay, in my opinion, I consider hunting ducks a different sport than shooting ducks. Shooting ducks means you go to a body of water, put out a bunch of decoys, have a retriever in the blind and wait for the ducks to fly by, so you can call them to within gun range. Hunting ducks involves bushwhacking them, learning where ducks live, eat and sleep and developing a stalking strategy to get in close enough to the ducks to jump shoot them when they come off the water. I’m not brazen enough to declare one technique better than the other. Actually I use both tactics throughout the season. But because duck shooting has become so sophisticated in many areas, duck hunting/ bushwhacking has begun to fade from popularity. Also, if you like to eat ducks as well as shoot ducks, there’s not a more-effective technique to bring waterfowl home for the table than bushwhacking.
I’ve duck hunted all my life, and most of the time I bushwhack ducks. I’m a hunter first and a duck hunter second. I’m not a duck caller, I’m not a duck decoyer, I don’t own a retriever, and I don’t have a necklace with 10 or 20 duck bands on it that I wear every time I go hunting. While still a boy, my family and I didn’t have decoys, retrievers, duck boats or much knowledge about calling ducks. However, we consistently bagged as many, if not more, ducks than most of the hunters who had all the right stuff. We used our woodsmanship, stalking skills and stealth to jump-shoot pothole quacks, stream ducks and creek ducks. If you conducted a poll today to learn how many hunters jump-shot ducks as opposed to those who set-up decoys, built blinds and owned retrievers, bushwhackers would make up 20 to 40 percent of all those who hunt waterfowl.
David Hale, one of the founders of Knight and Hale Game Calls (http://www.knightandhale.com/), in Cadiz, Kentucky, and one of the nation’s top turkey hunters, once told me, “I probably took more turkeys before I learned how to call turkeys than I did for the next 10 years after I learned to call turkeys. I just hunted those turkeys like I hunted deer, and I was successful.” This same principle of hunting turkeys like you do deer applies to successful duck hunting too. If you’re a hunter first and a duck hunter second, you consistently will take more ducks than a world-class caller will or someone with 1,000 decoys or a world-class retriever.
* find where the ducks feed, roost and loaf and identify the routes they take in-between these areas;
* determine the best way to approach the ducks, and just as importantly, the best way to leave the ducks’ region without the birds seeing or hearing him;
* know exactly where the ducks leave from or light down, and therefore won’t take as many passing shots, which usually won’t spell success as much as incoming or leaving shots will;
* understand how to get in close to ducks without their ever knowing the hunter’s there;
* know how to shoot ducks, so the webfoots don’t realize what’s happened and may return to that same spot within 10 to 20 minutes, giving the hunter a second shot at that same flight;
* keep hunting pressure low on the ducks to ensure he can take ducks regularly from the same spot, week after week;
* determine when the ducks have left a site and know how to find them in a new place;
* know what weather conditions he’ll need to have to pinpoint ducks in certain locations; and
* have ears as keen as a coyote, eyes as sharp as an eagle, the stalking ability and the patience of a bobcat and the camouflage of a chameleon.
To learn some recipes for preparing ducks for the table, go to “The Best Wild Game & Seafood Cookbook Ever: 350 Southern Recipes for Deer, Turkey, Fish, Seafood, Small Game and Birds” at http://amzn.to/WkbLRg. For more information on hunting, check out John E. Phillips’ books at www.amazon.com/author/johnephillips for print, Kindle and Audible books and www.barnesandnoble.com.